Top 5 Tips for Recreational Hockey Players
Despite the fact that rec league hockey is supposed to be for fun, we all know good and well that these games can get super competitive and that oftentimes the hockey is still played at a fairly high level. Recreational hockey players show up to win, and those who regularly train bring a performance edge with them to the ice.
The problem is that most of us have limited time we can allocate to becoming better hockey players. Work, family, projects around the home, among many other things, can get in the way of doing the things we love to do—such as train and play some good hockey.
That’s why it’s important for us as rec hockey players to use our time wisely, and focus on doing the things that are going to give us the best bang for the buck. You want to be investing your time in the gym (or at home, using the right equipment), not spending it. This list of the top 5 training tips will help you properly invest your time in getting yourself in better shape, with the goal of becoming a better hockey player.
1. Strength Train 3x a Week
There are tons of training programs available online. Bodybuilding routines; power-lifting routines; general fitness routines; and even some hockey routines. One important takeaway is that you can get by just fine and see great results by training only 3 times a week. With the proper structure, you won’t need more than 3 to 3.5 hours a week total to realize positive body composition and hockey performance results. This leaves you with plenty of time for work and family-related stuff.
Here’s a common training split I use all the time with my rec league athletes:
Day 1: ARMS
DAY 2: OFF
DAY 3: LOWER BODY/CORE
DAY 4: OFF
DAY 5: CHEST/BACK/REMEDIAL
DAY 6: OFF
DAY 7: OFF
2. Use Hockey for Your Conditioning
In most well-structured strength and conditioning training plans, you will see a common trend involving both resistance training and conditioning work. If you’re busy with a schedule that’s jammed with family and work commitments, simply use your hockey games as your conditioning work!
There’s no sense in spending time on the treadmill or running laps around the track. Hit the gym 3 times a week for your strength training sessions, and your 1-2 hockey games a week can go towards your conditioning. A lot of us tend to forget this simply because it is sports related, but if you are giving it your all out there (provided you’re not spending all your time in the box) this can definitely count.
Is this going to make you as conditioned as an NHL athlete? No. Is this going to make you conditioned enough for what you do and still allow you to be muscular and lean? Absolutely!
3. Focus on the Right Type of Conditioning
Hockey is not an aerobic sport. Which means low-intensity jogging, cycling, rowing, or anything that is long duration/low intensity is going to have very little crossover into your game. The body operates off of different energy systems to supply different forms of movement. To put it succinctly, they are either anaerobic or aerobic. So if you are someone who wants to do conditioning outside of the actual game, you’d better be putting your eggs in the right basket.
Hockey is an alactic-aerobic sport, meaning it has short bursts of intense physical activity interspersed by periods of lower-intensity activity. So if you only train the aerobic component of the conditioning, you are missing out on over 80% of what is going to cross over into the game. Hockey conditioning needs to involve high-power movements with incomplete rest, and over time should drive to build your overall work capacity in these higher-power movements. This will have much greater crossover to the ice and keep you fresh in those third periods. One example of a hockey conditioning workout could be:
Barbell ¼ squat jumps: 10 sets of 3 jumps/30 seconds between sets*
Sprints: 10 x 20 yards/30 seconds between sprints
Two-arm medicine ball throw-downs: 10 x 3 throws/30 seconds between sets
*You should never lose the “pop” with these jumps. If you do, you’re done.
The above is a basic example of a proper hockey-conditioning workout. Although these exercises aren’t set in stone, the possibilities are endless with the amount of variations you can do. To increase your capacity over time as discussed above, you would simply either increase the amount of training done within those parameters or decrease your rest period.
4. Use Variety in Your Program
With the many years of hockey, various other sports you might play, your work, and the type of training you do, you really put your body through the mill. The typical player usually has something nagging at them, whether it’s their hips, knees, shoulders, elbow, etc. Whatever the case may be, rec league hockey players are usually never operating at 100%.
In addition to stimulating muscle growth, using variety in your strength training can really reduce the typical injuries that result from repetitive strain. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition in North America, and not because typing is such a strenuous task. It’s because typing in the same manner for long periods of time is stressful on the body. Physical therapists see people with these types of random aching strains all the time, and the common denominator is they constantly perform the same exercises.
The changes you make don’t have to be extreme. If they are too intense it becomes tough to measure progress. If you’re bouncing around from one completely different variation to another on a consistent or uncontrolled basis, how do you really know you’re getting stronger? Just a slight change in something you do can be enough to do the trick. One small thing at a time.
A minor change can create a major response, and trying one with an exercise you commonly use will create a whole new feeling of soreness after training and stimulation during training. New changes to old exercises challenges new muscle fibers and motor units that will keep you progressing, while at the same time also reducing repetitive strains.
5. Keep On Top of Your Nutrition
If you’re serious about becoming a better athlete (not to mention having a great-looking physique), proper nutrition has to be factored in. You can’t out-train a bad diet. It will always hold you back in what you want to accomplish, if going from good to great is in your sights.
Making positive changes in this area of your life will give you a fantastic return on your investment. You will have more energy, feel better, look better, be more confident and also be much more focused on the task at hand. Ensuring you’re getting the correct amount of high-quality proteins, vegetables, high-fiber unprocessed carbohydrates, and healthy fats, will work to your excellent advantage both on and off the ice. This isn’t always easy with the typical schedule that recreational hockey players have (especially those with families), but that doesn’t excuse you from it all together.
It’s ok not to be perfect. But planning your meals accordingly should always be on your radar and you should never “have” to eat out. If you ate out you simply weren’t prepared. Cooking all of your meals in advance and bringing them with you to work and on the road may seem like a pain at first, but I promise that once you feel the difference that good food brings to your body and mind, you won’t want to stop.